Review Summary: A superb dark folk experience crafted by one of the genre’s most interesting bands.
A snowy canvas unfolds with splashing cymbals and droning flute tones in the opening moments of Tenhi’s 2002 opus, Väre
. From its inception, the record’s heavy atmosphere stokes the imagination, guiding the listener on a meditative sojourn into chilly, leafless timberlands swathed in silvery brume. If their debut were a misty, spring morning and their later releases (Maaäet
) an autumnal evening, then the Finnish collective’s sophomore full-length would embody the lonely, cold months in their discography. Despite the limitations such an analogy would imply, the band manages to explore a remarkable range of moods using their distinct brand of folk-flecked progressive music.
Like with Kauan
and their 2000 ep Airut: Ciwi
, the band employs a virtuosic use of space here. Minimalist structures reinforce the listener’s sense of solitude and the predominantly acoustic instrumentation, especially the string arrangements (“Suortuva”), emote a sadness that is nothing short of beautiful. Icy piano melodies wander the musical clearings between denser moments (eg, “Vastakaiun”) and guitars regularly appear in pairs and intertwine like birch roots (“Keväin”). Tyko Saarikko’s low baritone is distant throughout and often layered, giving his understated vocal performances a somewhat religious, chanting quality (“Kuolleesijokeen”).
The album’s more driving numbers, “Jäljen”, “Sutoi”, and “Katve”, serve to break the trance and lace more exotic hues throughVäre
’s mournful complexion. Throbbing bass and jaw harp texture the run time of “Sutoi” and a didgeridoo forms the trunk of “Katve”, which groans beneath the force of howling flute and brisk acoustic strums. Album highlight “Jäljen” displays tinges of progressive rock with its heavy strings, jaunty rhythms and intricate percussion.
If a fault were to be found, it would be in the record’s length. Some listeners will find it challenging to endure 55-plus minutes of sparse, introverted melancholia. However, there is little fat to be trimmed as each passage feels essential, like the individual sinews of a large, ancient tapestry. The band seems content to take their time and give the utmost consideration to the way in which they choose to speak. So, as with anything worthwhile, patience pays.
While Tenhi’s style would later be perfected with 2006’s Maaäet
, their second record remains an engrossing dark folk experience crafted by one of the genre’s most interesting bands.